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20% of the Elderly Are Prescribed Harmful Drugs

According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, 20% of elderly Americans are prescribed drugs that could potentially harm their bodies.

The study was conducted to determine how many drugs on the “Beers List” are used in clinical practice. The Beers List is a list of medications that should be avoided by people over 65.

Researchers collected data on prescriptions filled for all patients over 65 who filed claims in 1999 with a national pharmaceutical benefit manager.

Of the 765,423 elderly patients who had filled at least one prescription in 1999, researchers discovered that 20% of patients received prescriptions for ONE drug from Beers list, 15% received prescriptions for TWO or more prohibited drugs, and 4% received prescriptions for THREE or more prohibited drugs.

Forty-one percent of prescriptions were for psychotropic drugs, 25% were for antidepressants (amitriptyline and doxepin) and anti-anxiety (ValiumR) — all of which contribute to kidney disease in the elderly.

“People over 65 who are in good health don’t realize their kidneys don’t function as well and they don’t metabolized drugs as well as they did when they were younger,” he said.

Shulman noted that doctors should pay more attention to the potential toxicity of the medications prescribed to older people.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, August 2004; Forbes,, August 2004.